Scotland prepares for the eclipse

A CAR park by the sea on the north coast of Scotland will this week become the most unlikely of tourist destinations for sun-worshippers, if only for two minutes and seven seconds.

The parking spot above the beach at Durness has been identified by experts as the prime location in Britain to view the "ring of fire" solar eclipse at dawn on Saturday.

Sir Patrick Moore plans to be there with a film crew from his BBC Sky At Night television programme, and long-range forecasters at the Met Office say it offers the best chance of an unimpeded view of one of nature’s great spectacles.

If the clouds part, spectators who stand on the car park tarmac at 4:24am will see the moon slide into place over the centre of the rising sun, leaving only a giant fiery ring hovering over the sea.

"It will be an incredible sight," Sir Patrick said yesterday. "We just have to keep our fingers crossed that the weather is in our favour."

The north coast, Orkney and Shetland are the only places in Britain where the eclipse can be seen and thousands of enthusiasts are expected in the area this weekend. Hotel and guest house owners within the sweep of the eclipse have reported a 50 per cent rise in bookings, as pagans, druids, astronomers and sun-worshippers from across Europe head for Scotland.

On the mainland, they are expected to congregate at Durness, Dunnet Head, Duncansby Head and John O’Groats, while viewing sites have been set up at Unst and Fetlar further north.

Unlike the total eclipse which cast a shadow over Cornwall in August 1999, this will be an "annular" eclipse, meaning the moon will be framed by a narrow circle, or annulus, of the sun because it is currently further from the sun. It is the first such event in Britain since 1921 and there will not be another one in the UK until 2093.

For the best view, eclipse chasers are advised to find an elevated spot with a clear view to the north-eastern horizon, preferably by the sea. Durness car park is one of the prime locations because it is 80ft above the beach.

According to the Met Office in Glasgow, the north-west coast on the mainland, including Durness, also looks like having the best chance of a clear sky on Saturday.

"The indications are that we will have high pressure to the north-east, so that means that areas with a shelter to the south-east will have the best chance of some cloud break", a spokesman said yesterday.

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